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    Denisse Samaniego

New beginnings

Denisse Samaniego performs in stories of displacement & resettlement

Sarasvàti Productions will premiere their latest community collaboration called New Beginnings this month at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film.

The production brings together a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants to explore the themes of displacement and resettlement through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling.

The stories featured in New Beginnings were collected through a series of interviews conducted by Artistic Director Hope McIntyre and Associate Producer Lindsay Johnson over the course of about two years. Stories range from the experiences of refugees from Syria and Sudan, to immigrants from the African diaspora who came for a more secure future for their children.

The show also includes an ensemble of eight performers, seven dancers, drummers and dozens of community members sharing their traditions – many of whom were artists in their home country.

Denisse Samaniego, a third year Theatre and Education student at University of Winnipeg, plays the role of Hazel – acting, dancing and singing in her professional stage debut. She emigrated from the Philippines to Winnipeg with her parents when she was only three years old and found parallels with her character on stage.

“I’m proud of my culture and my Philippine upbringing,” says Samaniego who has been performing since she learned to talk. “I’m an immigrant and like the character I play, my parents started with very little but worked hard to build a firm foundation for me and my little sister. It’s a privilege to work with an organization like Sarasvàti to share humble immigrant beginnings that have helped shape our society today.”

Samaniego was crowned Miss Teenage Manitoba in 2016 where she advocated in support of mental health, women’s empowerment, and equal access to education. She was an ambassador for positive self-esteem and inspiring individuality among the thousands of youth at the many events where she spoke.

Cherissa Richards, who recently appeared in Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s A Christmas Carol, will direct the production. It is being created with the contribution of renowned musician Gerry Atwell as Music Director, Brenda Gorlick as dance consultant, Snow Angel Films and contemporary Indigenous dancer Emily Solstice.

New Beginnings runs from May 22 to 27 at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street. Select performances will offer translation, post-show conversation circles and feasts to promote inter-cultural dialogue. Tickets are $15 at or call 204-586-2236.

Sources: Sarasvàti Productions, Eman Agpalza

Photos by Samantha Rae Photography

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“New Beginnings” ensemble
Gertrude Hambira and Mpho Mambira
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Denisse Samaniego and Savannah Boyko
Reena Jolly and Olatunbosun Amao